What to do in Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park

Ringing Charlotte Harbor like a necklace of mangroves, the park provides vast areas of unspoiled scenery and vital habitat for many varieties of wildlife. The Charlotte Harbor Estuary is one of the most productive in the state and five aquatic preserves have been established in the water bodies adjacent to the park. The Mangrove forests and salt marshes comprise the majority of the park, but public access points have been established at strategic upland points in each area of the park. The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC) is located within the park at 10941 Burnt Store Road in Punta Gorda. CHEC is a non-profit group that has a visitor's center, offers environmental education programs, interpretive guided hikes, and approximately 6 miles of marked trails. The Old Datsun Trail is located at 12301 Burnt Store Road in Punta Gorda. This trail is approximately 1.75 miles long and traverses oak/palm hammocks, pine flatwoods and wetland sloughs. The Little Pine Island High Marsh Trail is located on the north side of Pine Island Road between Matlacha and Pine Island. This trail is approximately 2 miles long and traverses salt marsh, freshwater marsh and mangrove forests. The Catfish Creek Trailhead is located on the east side of County Road 771 approximately 1 ½ miles north of Placida. A picnic pavilion is available for visitors to use at this site. Pine flatwoods, freshwater marshes, and salt marshes are accessible from this trailhead. Visitors are welcome to explore other areas of the park, unless posted as closed, but should be aware that these areas are remote and primitive wilderness. Visitors should take a compass, a map, and sufficient water for their trip. Almost all areas of the park are wetlands and are subject to periodic flooding. Heat, muddy trails, and mosquitoes are common elements of natural Florida. Visitors should be prepared to encounter all of them.

There are many opportunities for boating and paddling in the waters of the Aquatic Preserves (Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound / Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass) which are adjacent to and protected by the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.

Canoeing or kayaking in the quiet backwaters of the Aquatic Preserves provides increased opportunities for bird-watching.

The administrative, resource management and facilities maintenance offices are located on Burnt Store Road in Punta Gorda approximately 3 miles south of US 41/Tamiami Trail. Other access points to the park are available in Cape Coral, Cape Haze, El Jobean, Little Pine Island and Rotonda.

Florida's weather is dominated by the water that surrounds it. The Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Gulf of Mexico in the west provide a stabilizing force that maintains the mild climate. Northern Florida is considered sub tropical, although it does receive some snow. This area is drier than the rest of the state. Southern areas of the state, definitely the Keys, lie within a tropical climate. Humidity is high, a characteristic of the climate, although the temperatures usually don't extend past 90 degrees F.

On the average the state receives 50 to 65 inches of rain. Summer is the rainy season, which extends into October in the south. Hurricane season begins in late August. Some hurricanes can bring up to 25 inches of rain. An average of two hurricanes per season reach the Florida peninsula. Most often these storms reach the Atlantic Coast rather than the Gulf Coast.

12301 Burnt Store Rd. (County Road 786)
Punta Gorda, FL 33955

Phone: 941-575-5861

Email: michael.strivelli@dep.state.fl.us
  • Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park Travel Q&A